NEWS
08/27/2015 17:34 EDT | Updated 08/27/2016 01:12 EDT

Peter Fassbender meets TransLink board for first time as minister, in private

New TransLink Minister Peter Fassbender met with the transportation agency's board for first time Thursday, but the doors were kept tightly shut despite summer promises of more transparency.

Fassbender was appointed to the role in a cabinet shuffle by Premier Christy Clark late in July, taking over the file from Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

"I clearly am going to ask the board to work as close as they can with the Mayors' Council," Fassbender told Chris Brown of CBC Radio'sThe Early Edition early Thursday morning.

"I'm going to really encourage [the board] to build that bridge."

It was the first sit-down meeting between the new minister and the board, with its newest provincial appointees: former Vancouver police chief Jim Chu and former Surrey city manager Murray Dinwoodie.

"We need to roll up our sleeves and get on with the job [using] the vision that the mayors have developed," said Fassbender, who hopes to be able to help patch the potholes of controversy that have plagued the transportation agency.

CBC tried to attend the meeting, but got a variety of answers from TransLink staff about whether the meeting was in progress, was private, or even existed. Eventually the meeting time was confirmed, but the doors were kept shut and the new appointees remained silent.

Transparency wanted

TransLink's closed door meetings have been a public sticking point with critics complaining about fat pay cheques and little transparency.

TransLink is now promising to hold an open board meeting by Sept. 25.

"We indicated at our annual meeting that we would start public meetings in September, but we will from time to time have time sensitive issues we need to deal with. That's the reason for this," said TransLink Board Chair Barry Forbes.

"Today's meeting dealt with a "fare" issue," Forbes explained.

Transit referendum sent a message

Earlier this year Canada's first-ever vote on transit finance ended up overshadowed by accusations about wasteful spending and delayed smart-card systems when it could have been focused on dealing with future transit improvements.

In July the vote results revealed 62 per cent had voted "No" effectively killing the funding plan for transit's projects and infrastructure. 

Fassbender says the referendum revealed the public's dissatisfacation with TransLink.

"The defeat of the plebiscite clearly showed there is a sense on the part of the public that TransLink needs to look at its efficiencies."

In one of his first acts as the minister responsible, Fassbender appointed former Vancouver Police Department chief constable Jim Chu and former Surrey city manger Murray Dinwoodie to the TransLink board in an effort to restore public trust in the organization.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Peter Fassbender's first meeting with TransLink board.